Windflower: A New ‘Landing Zone’ For Great Barrington
Inn to be put to use for workforce housing
— From The Berkshire Edge, December 1, 2022
“Another grand old Berkshire retreat has been acquired by those working to address South County’s dire lack of affordable housing. The 13-bedroom Windflower Inn, just north of South Egremont village, will be sold to Construct, Inc. on Thursday, December 1. The 13-thousand-square-foot inn is changing hands fully furnished and will serve as a temporary fix for those in between addresses or working seasonally. The housing support organization is paying $1,425,000 for the ten-acre property and hopes to begin welcoming lodgers as soon as January. (An additional free-standing, four-bedroom, two-bath house, and three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath cottage on the property are currently occupied.)
The new re-purposing of the Windflower started out as the brainchild of local restauranteur Josh Irwin, who has, by necessity, turned his attention lately to the problem of workforce housing. In 2015, he opened Cantina 229 in New Marlborough, followed, in 2019, by Moon Cloud on Railroad Street in Great Barrington. Within the past year, his wife Emily opened Home Love, a home goods shop, further down the street.
Not only has staffing these businesses become increasingly difficult, but Irwin’s entrepreneurial mind saw more opportunity everywhere. “I kept seeing ideas that in my head were like, ‘Yes, this would be good for our town! Oh my god, we do need a lunch spot. I could do something in Subway. Why is nobody using the flying church?’”
“Once his imagining turned practical, he always hit the same brick wall. Who would work there, and where would they live? The recent real estate boom and shift to short-term rentals has demolished the long-term rental stock in and around Great Barrington. There are only so many people willing to drive long distances for a service job.…”
“Here is where Construct, or, more specifically, Leigh Davis, Development Director at Construct and Great Barrington Select Board member, enters the story. She had visited The Windflower on the day of its inspection and had been tracking Irwin’s progress. In April, she was eating breakfast with Picheny at GB Eats, talking housing, when he mentioned that it looked like Josh was going to have to release the Inn. Davis. told me, “I was like, ‘What?’ I almost jumped from my seat. ‘Call him right now. Don’t let him release it,’ I said. Let me pitch this.” She ran into Irwin on Railroad Street and he agreed to hold off on releasing the property until Davis could get approval from Construct.”